All eyes on the show, but the open­ing act was not what they ex­pected

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ALEX KAS­RIEL

SOL­I­DAR­ITY HARD­ENED among the 7,500-strong crowd at the Is­rael 60 Gala in Wem­b­ley Arena last week af­ter a sur­real in­ci­dent oc­curred mo­ments be­fore the show be­gan.

While they waited for the en­ter­tain­ment to start, a mas­sive cheer rang out as around 30 po­lice swarmed into the au­di­ence and wres­tled a group of an­tiIs­rael pro­test­ers to the ground.

Four men and one wo­man were led from the build­ing where they were ar­rested for pub­lic or­der of­fences and re­leased on bail.

Han­nah Kle­in­feld, 51, an Is­raeli liv­ing in Wood­side Park and work­ing for Zion­ist youth move­ment Hanoar Hatzioni said: “I saw a wo­man scream­ing and when she was brought down by po­lice I heard her shout ‘Is­rael is an apartheid state!’ I was so scared I was shak­ing. But I have to say the CST and the po­lice acted so quickly, it was in­cred­i­ble.”

Or­gan­iser Alan Aziz, of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion, went on stage to as­sure the crowd that the “hap­pen­ing” had been dealt with and ev­ery­one re­mained in their seats.

The IDF En­ter­tain­ment Troupe opened the show, march­ing on in their khaki uni­forms, ac­com­pa­nied by some very cute Is­raeli folk danc­ing youths.

Their med­ley of Euro­vi­sion song con­test en­tries raised a laugh or two, even if un­in­ten­tion­ally. Gor­don Brown’s tele­vised ad­dress be­mused most, but this was a crowd which would un­equiv­o­cally sup­port any­thing pro-Is­rael.

And even the most scep­ti­cal of Is­rael’s sup­port­ers melted when the Sylvia Young-trained singer Olivia Aaron, 11, did a ren­di­tion of Bern­stein’s Some­where from West Side Story. As she sung: “We’ll find a new way of liv­ing, We’ll find a way of for­giv­ing,” and images of Is­rael ap­peared on the screen be­hind her, the au­di­ence swooned.

But of course, it wouldn’t be a Jewish event if there wasn’t any­thing to com­plain about, and in this case, there were three points of con­tention.

The first was the old favourite — food. Many ar­rived at 6pm with­out hav­ing eaten and were faced with a choice of chips or pre-pack­aged sand­wiches for din­ner.

“I’m sur­prised they don’t have stands here,” said Roger Allen, 60, of Whet­stone. “They’ll never get as many peo­ple as this in one place so it would be a good show­case for Jewish food. The thing that Is­rael is fa­mous for is a spec­trum of food from around the world. With­out it, the whole at­mos­phere was flat.”

The sec­ond was tim­ing. It started nearly an hour late, al­though this was prob­a­bly due to many ar­riv­ing late.

Is­raeli flag-clad Lisa Co­hen, 26, joked: “That’s Jewish mean time for you!”

And the third was Jackie Ma­son’s non-PC act which had a pop at ev­ery­one from blacks to women to gays.

“It was out­ra­geous, racist and not very po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. I was em­bar­rassed,” said Han­nah Kle­in­feld. “I couldn’t bare it,” said Donna Sherrington, 31, of Hamp­stead. “I didn’t want to watch. I can’t be­lieve peo­ple still say things like that.”

It took singer Sarit Hadad to get the au­di­ence back on side. Maybe it was the feel­ing of to­geth­er­ness, maybe it was the 29-year-old’s en­er­getic, Mid­dle East­ern-style pop, or maybe it was a feel­ing of de­fi­ance against a com­mon en­emy, but some­thing mag­i­cal hap­pened when she came on. Peo­ple did the conga in the aisles, waved Is­raeli flags and danced in front of the stage arm in arm, not a com­mon sight at a UK con­cert. But this was not an or­di­nary UK con­cert.

PHO­TOS: JOHN RIFKIN

The stage is set: Is­raeli Am­bas­sador Ron Prosor takes a front row seat at the packed arena. Mo­ments later, po­lice stormed the up­per tier

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